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There may be a cure for Hepatitis, but it costs $1,125 to take one pill every day for 12 weeks. The new Hepatitis drug, Harvoni, developed by Gilead Sciences costs $94,500 for a 12 week period. This follows last year’s best-selling drug, Sovaldi, which cost patients $84,000 for 12 weeks.
Last year Sovaldi made the drug company enough money to hit the $12 Billion mark and is expected to reach $15 Billion in sales next year. Combining Sovaldi with Harvoni is supposed to shorten the treatment time for patients.
The actual meaning of Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. This can be caused by toxins, some drugs and certain diseases. It can also be caused by heavy alcohol use and viral infections that affect the liver.
There are three different types of Hepatitis, A, which is caused by the ingestion of fecal matter, even microscopic amounts. This can be prevented with a vaccine. B, which is caused by contact with blood, semen or other bodily fluids from a person who has been infected. Sexual contact, needles and other drug-injection equipment are most common methods of infection. Mothers can also transmit the disease to their unborn children. This virus can also be prevented with a vaccine. Finally, Hepatitis C Is usually spread when blood from someone infected with the virus is introduced to someone who is not infected. Hepatitis C was commonly introduced to the uninfected through blood transfusions and organ donations before 1992 when widespread blood screening began in the US. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The only prevention is to avoid activities which cause the spread of the disease such as sharing needles. This is the most difficult of the Hepatitis viruses to overcome.
The question arises as to how they are able to say that this new drug therapy is actually a cure. According to WebMD, being cured means that the drugs have gotten rid of the disease and it is no longer found in the body six months after the patient stops taking the medicine. The technical term for this is called “sustained virologic response” or SRV.
Clinical trials of the $1,125 Hepatitis pill, Harvoni proved to have cured 94 to 99 percent of patients who were given the drug. The Durations of the trials were 8, 12 and 24 weeks depending on the patient’s history with the disease and based on residual damage to the liver caused by the disease.
Typically, drugs that are used to treat the disease involve Interferon and ribavirin which must be taken with Sovaldi unless the patient has “genotype 2” and “genotype 3” hepatitis C. These two genotypes are not as common in the U.S. meaning that the use of Interferon will still be necessary with this drug. This makes the price tag for the Sovaldi therapy more than the $84,000 reported price for twelve weeks of therapy.
The new drug Harvoni can be taken without the addition of Interferon and Ribavirin which is a significant achievement in the treatment of Hepatitis C. The price tag per pill for Harvoni makes it one of the most costly drugs in the world. The high price of the pill makes it nearly inaccessible in poorer countries. The Bay Area drug maker has made deals with several Indian drug makers to sell a cheaper generic version of the drug in poorer countries. The Generic version only costs $1,000 per pill. The drug company Gilead Sciences of Foster city plans to sell another version of the drug in developing countries for a much lower price than what patients in the U.S. will pay. Out of the 150 million people infected with Chronic Hepatitis C, people in the U.S. will be the ones paying the highest price of $1,125 per pill.
By Aiden Wolfe